NHL teams traded a record 38 players in a record-tying 19 trades before Tuesday's trading deadline, including three deals in which the Mighty Ducks got younger, more skillful and a bit deeper.
As expected, the Ducks sent defenseman Dmitri Mironov to the Detroit Red Wings, for 25-year-old defenseman Jamie Pushor and a fourth-round pick in the June entry draft. They also traded unhappy left wing Warren Rychel and a conditional 1999 draft pick to Colorado for center Josef Marha and sent center Sean Pronger to Pittsburgh for the rights to goaltender Patrick Lalime, who set a rookie record last season with a 14-0-2 debut but fell out of favor and is unsigned this season.
Defensemen dominated the transactions, with 14 changing uniforms. In noteworthy moves involving defensemen, the Philadelphia Flyers added toughness by acquiring Dan McGillis and a second-round draft pick from Edmonton for Janne Niinimaa and by getting veteran Dave Babych from Vancouver for a third-round draft pick; the Tampa Bay Lightning sent Bryan Marchment and David Shaw to the San Jose Sharks for right wing Andrei Nazarov; and the Sharks traded Todd Gill to St. Louis for right wing Joe Murphy.
The Ducks considered Mironov expendable because he's 32, can become an unrestricted free agent July 1 and wanted a hefty raise over his $1.5-million salary. Although his defensive game is suspect, he played an average of nearly 30 minutes a game and had six goals and 36 points. Pushor, who is more defensive-minded and brawnier at 6-feet-3 and 225 pounds, had two goals and seven points and was plus-two in 54 games with the defending Stanley Cup champions.
"It's hard to swallow because this is the best organization probably in the world. You have to go on," Pushor said. "The thing with Anaheim is that when [Paul] Kariya is healthy and [Teemu] Selanne is healthy they have a pretty competitive team and they are not quite out of the playoffs yet, so I am looking forward to going to a team where I will get a chance to play.
"I'm 25 now and I have to play more than I was playing here. You have to look at it as a window of opportunity, but I am going to miss such a great hockey city."
The Red Wings, struggling to fill the gaping hole left when defenseman Vladimir Konstantinov was injured in a car accident last June, also acquired veteran defenseman Jamie Macoun from Toronto for a fourth-round draft pick. They will undoubtedly give Mironov ample power-play time in an attempt to ease the offensive burden carried by Larry Murphy and a fading Nicklas Lidstrom.
"I am happy I will be in the playoffs with a team like Detroit," said Mironov, a member of the silver medal-winning Russian team at Nagano. "It's not sad. I understand it's a business. For me, it's just change. I get an extra chance to win the Stanley Cup."
Rychel, who had five goals, 11 points and 198 penalty minutes in 63 games, was unhappy over his shrinking ice time and limited role. By contrast, the Czech-born Marha is a finesse player who was unable to crack a Colorado lineup that might be the NHL's strongest up the middle. Marha, 21, had two goals and seven points in 11 games with the Avalanche and six goals and 51 points in 55 games with Hershey of the American Hockey League.
Lalime had an impressive start last season but was unable to keep his job after Tom Barrasso and Ken Wregget recovered from injuries. He was 21-12-2 with a 2.94 goals-against average and was voted to the NHL's all-rookie team. A restricted free agent, he has been playing with Grand Rapids of the International Hockey League, where he is 8-8-9 with a 2.58 goals-against average and .919 save percentage.
The Ducks were eager to increase their goaltending depth and knew Lalime because he's a protege of goaltending consultant Francois Allaire. They parted with Pronger, who had five goals and 20 points in 62 games, because he showed few signs of developing into the second-line center they so desperately need. The improvement of Matt Cullen and the acquisition of Travis Green combined to push Pronger lower on the team's depth chart.
Although prominent players such as John Vanbiesbrouck, Curtis Joseph and Jeremy Roenick were rumored to be on the move, they did not change addresses Tuesday. However, a number of second-tier players have new uniforms.
Goalie Kirk McLean was traded for the second time this season, going from Carolina to Florida for prolific right wing Ray Sheppard. That gives the Panthers insurance if Vanbiesbrouck, a walk-away free agent, leaves this summer. The Toronto Maple Leafs, beefing up their defense, traded skillful but often-injured Jeff Brown to Washington for steady defenseman Sylvain Cote, and the Lightning beefed up by acquiring rugged right wing Sandy McCarthy and two draft picks for left wing Jason Wiemer.
The New York Rangers, who are trying to shave years off their average age and dollars off their budget as they slip out of playoff contention in the East, sent their two big free-agent finds from last summer--Mike Keane and Brian Skrudland--to Dallas for injured right wing Todd Harvey and grinding left wing Bob Errey. The teams also exchanged draft picks. In addition, the Rangers acquired center Harry York from St. Louis for center Mike Eastwood.
The Buffalo Sabres held on to right wing Matthew Barnaby but dealt right wing Jason Dawe to the New York Islanders for defenseman Jason Holland and left wing Paul Kruse, who couldn't resist a parting shot at Mike Milbury, the Islanders' general manager and coach.
"I don't think Mike knows what he's doing. He doesn't really have an overall plan," Kruse said. "I'm pretty happy to get out of here. . . . I requested the move because I wasn't playing very much."
The Islanders also sent former Duck center Mark Janssens to Phoenix for a ninth-round draft pick. The Kings, who were seeking a big center and a power-play quarterback, did not make any trades.